CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When asked who is the best shooter on the team Wednesday at ACC Operation Basketball, Wake Forest grad transfer forward Austin Arians had a simple answer.
“Right here,” he said.
Sophomore guard Bryant Crawford, who was sitting at a table five feet to his left, overheard the question. . . and the answer. He disagreed.
“Me,” Crawford said. “Austin’s been having a rough week with me in H-O-R-S-E. That should show you. It’s no trick shots, just straight 3s and he’s still been losing.”
Regardless of who is the best, it’s clear the Deacs must improve behind the arc to better their 11-20 finish from last season.
By finishing the season losing 15 of your last 16, they clearly showed room for improvement in multiple areas.
For Danny Manning’s Deacs, shooting is one of those areas.
Wake finished last season 182nd out of 356 Division 1 programs in field goal shooting at 44.0 percent.
That really don’t tell the entire story however, as Devin Thomas, Doral Moore and John Collins were solid finishers around the rim.
From the perimeter and at the foul stripe, the Deacs were abysmal.
Wake shot just 31.6 percent from behind the arc last season, which was 301st across the nation and last in the ACC.
The Deacs were 66 percent from the free-throw line, good for 304th in the nation and 14th in the conference.
“I feel like we had shooters on the team last year, but shots just weren’t going in,” Crawford said. “Everybody knew Dinos (Mitoglou) and Mitch (Wilbekin) can shoot threes. Shots just weren’t going down.”
Mitoglou suffered a mid-season injury that he played through last year, and his numbers suffered. He shot 38.5 percent behind the arc in his freshman campaign, but fell to 31.8 percent last season — and a paltry 28.2 percent in conference play.
Arians said Mitoglou might be the best outside shooter on the team.
“Every practice when he is open, he just does not miss. I have to get some Greek water or something,” he said. “We were scrimmaging and I don’t think he missed one shot. I think he made all the 3s he took.”
The Deacs have added six new players on the roster for this season, and four of them are noted for their long-range accuracy.
“You have to recruit guys who can shoot,” Manning said. “That’s what it comes down to. That was one of the pressing needs when we took over.”
Charlotte transfer Keyshawn Woods led Conference USA in 3-point shooting his freshman season at 46.6 percent.
Freshman Brandon Childress is a streaky shooter, who is automatic when he gets hot. Also, his last name is Childress, so watch out.
Forward Rich Washington is known as a prolific shooter with a gorgeous left-handed stroke.
Arians has drained 186 3-pointers in his career at Milwaukee, hitting at a 35.2 percent clip.
“We’ve got six or seven guys now that are capable of making a shot. When they shoot the ball, you feel pretty good about it if it’s a clean, open look,” Manning said. “That’s an area we will show improvement in.”
“Everybody from top to bottom can put the ball in the hoop,” Crawford said. “I definitely feel like we have more shooters this year, which will allow us to open up the floor for driving lanes and for the bigs to get touches inside.”
“There is a lot of 3-point shooting, I just never thought about the individuals that do it. Myself, Dinos, even two freshman Brandon (Childress) and Richard (Washington) have been shooting the lights out in some practices,” he said. “Hopefully other guys will put pressure on the defense, by making the defense honor them as a 3-point shooter.”
Manning said when it comes to free throw shooting, a lot of it comes down to whether you’re a good shooter or not. Players have to continue to practice their shots, and he wants to put them in practice situations that are similar to what they will face in game.
“There’s a lot of guys that stick around after practice to work on free throws, getting up extra shots,” Arians said. “The more shots you take, the better shooter you become. You just have to keep working on them.
The question remains: Did Crawford really best Arians at H-O-R-S-E?
“He beat me three times,” Arians admitted. “I had an off day.”
When reminded Crawford doesn’t like to lose, Arians added “No, he really doesn’t. I found that out.”